Australia – weak employment growth, rising unemployment – need for policy shift

The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for December 2016 shows total employment barely increased and the ABS said the trend to part-time work remains. Over the last 12 months, Australia has lost 34 thousand full-time jobs (in net terms) and added only 91.5 thousand overall. This status as the nation of part-time employment growth carries many attendant negative consequences – poor income growth, precarious work, lack of skill development etc. The teenage labour market remains in a poor state and went backwards in December. It requires urgent policy intervention. Overall, with weak private investment now on-going and real GDP contracting (in the September-quarter), the Australian labour market is weak and there needs to be a policy shift. It is clear that the current policy position adopted by the Federal government is not sufficient to redress the inadequate non-government spending growth.
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    Posted in Labour Force | 3 Comments

    The (neo-liberal) Third Way infestation continues

    “Fresh thinking delivered to your inbox – Subscribe”. That is the message on the home page of Third Way an American think tank (aka conservative propaganda machine) masquerading in the public space as a “centrist think tank”. The problem is that this particular ‘think tank’ does not seem to do much fresh thinking, if thinking at all. According to the Politico article (January 17, 2017) – Democratic Party rethink gets $20 million injection – largely aimed to reestablish the narrative that allowed Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama to be elected as President. In part, this initiative is to head off the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (neither who are mounting what I call a fully progressive agenda anyway) and claw back the voters who abandoned the unelectable (my judgement) Hillary Clinton in favour of the (shouldn’t have ever been elected) Donald Trump. The narrative that the Third Way organisation has been engaged in for years is hardly fresh. They attack fiscal deficits and call for retrenchments of pension entitlements and public health care funding, they oppose single payer health care and, thus, favour pumping billions of public funds into private insurance companies who offer inferior services, and are strong advocates of the deeply flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership. There is nothing progressive about this group nor fresh. They are mainstream central and the fact they are spearheading a Democratic Party initiative to win back political support tells me that the Party has learned next to nothing from last November’s Presidential election.
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      Posted in Britain, Demise of the Left, UK Economy, US economy | 18 Comments

      Executive pay bears no relationship to company performance

      On December 27, 2016, the British CFA Society (an organisation representing Chartered Financial Analysts) released an interesting report that they had commissioned from academic researchers at the Lancaster University Management School. The Report – An Analysis of CEO Pay Arrangements and Value Creation for FTSE-350 Companies – explodes another mainstream economics myth that pay is in accordance with contribution to production adjusted for so-called compensating differentials (danger, risk etc). The Report confirms many other research publications over the years that there is little or no relationship between the pay that the top CEOs receive and the performance of the companies they manage. In fact, executive pay seems to grow even when their companies go backwards and their workers are shown the door (lose their jobs). It is just another one of those scams that we have been lulled into accepted in this neo-liberal era. It is one of the scams that a progressive agenda has to attack and develop policies to reverse. There should be legal frameworks in place as part of company law to force boards to scale pay to performance as a first step. The results of the research also allow us to see through some of the central arguments in favour of privatisation – viz, that public enterprises are wasteful because there are no shareholders to discipline the management. Well, the research discussed below shows that shareholders have very little sway on management and the boards that hand out massive and unjustifiable executive salaries.
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        Posted in Britain, Economics, Labour costs, UK Economy | 3 Comments

        Policy changes needed to arrest decline in fortunes for low-pay British workers

        Its hard to keep track of the variety of ways that this neo-liberal era has screwed workers. The latest report from the UK Institute of Fiscal Studies (January 13, 2017) – Two decades of income inequality in Britain: the role of wages, household earnings and redistribution. I read that report after I had studied the latest income distribution figures from the British Office of National Statistics (January 10, 2017) – Household disposable income and inequality in the UK: financial year ending 2016. The latter suggests that income inequality has decreased in Britain since . The former revealed that in the last two decades there has been a “four-fold increase” in the prime-age males (25-55 years) working part-time on low wages. But closer scrutiny of the figures reveals that they are not inconsistent because the falling inequality is not the result of low-wage workers improving their position. Anyway, this is another legacy of New Labour – screw the workers you claim to represent. It is just another part of the scam of Blairism exposed.
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          Posted in Britain, UK Economy | 14 Comments

          The Weekend Quiz – January 14-15, 2017 – answers and discussion

          Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 13 Comments

            The Weekend Quiz – January 14-15, 2017

            Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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              Posted in Saturday quiz | 1 Comment

              The Obama legacy

              I heard some of President Obama’s Farewell Address on the radio yesterday and read the transcript later. Early on, the crowd started chanting “Four More Years” and at that point I concluded they were blind too the reality before them. Obama’s legacy and the legacy of the Democratic period in office is Donald Trump. But it is much more than that. It was full of American exceptionalism, which those from the outside just brush off as the usual hype from a nation that is close to being a failed state but just has more guns and ammunition than anyone else. Press those E-mail send buttons now, I have the full fire suit on – as always. I get more hate E-mails from Americans who profess to love freedom and liberty than any other nation. At any rate, if I was departing what has been a failed Presidency when judged in progressive terms, I would have gone quietly. The ultimate Obama legacy is the Trump presidency. The embrace of the Clinton divine right to rule helped get Trump across the line but the damage was done earlier and Obama only consolidated the failure of Democratic party to offer an alternative to the rabid neo-liberalism of its opponents. The first problem is that the Democratic Party has long ceased being a voice for progressive policies. It masquerades as a progressive party. Obama adopted that masquerade and when one puts together a report card, he gets a failing grade on so many fronts, a few of which lie within my expertise, that I discuss below.
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                Posted in US economy | 24 Comments

                The Left lacks courage and is riddled with inferiority complexes

                When the British people voted to leave the dysfunctional European Union on June 23, 2016, I saw it as a massive opportunity for progressive forces to shed the neo-liberal chains that they have become enslaved by and narrate a new, inclusive manifesto for the future. The Brexit referendum was really a fork in the road for progressives – they could go one way and stay irrelevant and cede legitimacy to the rabid Right, or, go the other route, and reinvent themselves as the force of the future. The signs are they have opted to remain irrelevant. In doing so they have essentially conflated financial responsibility and competence with neo-liberal principles relating to the conduct of fiscal surpluses and the role of government in mediating the conflict between workers and capital. In the former sense, they have bought into the myths such as the need to run fiscal surpluses etc. In doing so, in relation to the latter, they have supported policy environments that are heavily biased in favour of capital and undermine the prospects for workers. And when the workers revolt, and, for example, use the Brexit referendum as a voice amidst their powerlessness, the progressives have turned on them accusing them of being ignorant and racist. The reality is that the lack of leadership within the political Left and their deep sense of inferiority (in the face the so-called mainstream economics experts who they mimic to sound smart) has left the door open for the Right to harness the working class anxiety and steer it in a very retrogressive direction.
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                  Posted in Britain, Demise of the Left, UK Economy | 34 Comments

                  Paul Krugman’s ideas are part of the problem

                  It was always going to happen. Several prominent New Keynesians both in the US and the UK have been hiding behind a smokescreen they erected during the Global Financial Crisis to allow their readers to form the view that they were not part of the problem. That they were different from the more rabid anti-deficit economists and that they had a deep understanding of why the crisis occurred and what the solutions were. For a while they masqueraded under the aegis of promoting the discretionary use of fiscal deficits (increasing them nonetheless) to stimulate growth in output and employment. They were seen by many who have a lesser understanding of economics as being progressive economists. The British Labour leader even had some of them on his inner advisory team. But the masks can only stay on so long. Yesterday, one of the most prominent of these characters, Paul Krugman came out! He is not progressive at all. He is a New Keynesian with all the IS-LM baggage that they cannot let go of. In his New York Times article (January 9, 2016) – Deficits Matter Again – he well and truly shows his colours. And they (to speak American) ain’t pretty!
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                    Posted in Economics, US economy | 26 Comments

                    Austerity is the problem for Britain not Brexit

                    Regular readers will know that I firmly supported the LEAVE vote in the British referendum in June 2016 even though that was somewhat gratuitous given I am neither a British citizen or live there. It was one of those academic exercises where we wax lyrical with little personal at stake. But that aside, if I had have been a British citizen then I would have voted to leave without doubt. The Internet links us more closely these days and in before the Referendum vote I received heaps of antagonist E-mails informing me that I was bereft of all credibility in taking that position. After the vote, when I dared to point out that the official (Bank of England, Treasury, IMF, OECD) and non-official predictions (the investment bankers etc – remember Credit Suisse sending out a Mayday alert of an impending recession which would wipe out 500,000 jobs!) were over the top to say the least (given the post-vote data), I was called delusional and worse. And these personal attacks came mostly from those who claim to be on the progressive side of the debate. Spare the thought! Subsequent data has indeed pointed out that none of the predictions of doom have so far turned out to be true. I know there might be longer term issues when they get onto working out the detail but I stand by my view – Brexit – if handled correctly by the British government will be a net benefit to the nation and its democracy. If not it could offer no real gains. But in this smokescreen of misinformation, a serious study from Cambridge University researchers – The macro-economic impact of Brexit – has concluded, that while there might be some short-run losses in GDP per capita, they soon recover as the British economy adjusts to its break from the dysfunctional European Union. There is no disaster scenario forthcoming! To the de

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                      Posted in Britain, UK Economy | 20 Comments